In our second interview with ‘The Dragonfly Effect’ author, Andy talks about where content marketing is headed, how its path relates to social marketing, and how to promote different types of content to different types of audiences.

This is the second installment of our interview series with The Dragonfly Effect author.

Last week Andy talked about how marketers can find a valuable audience, leverage hypothesis testing in content marketing and more. This week he speaks on its future and how the industry’s following the same track that social marketing once did. (Side note: Despite being a well-known author, Andy now spends his time advising tech ventures on their marketing and consumer strategy as a Principal of Vonavona Ventures). Here’s what he had to say…

See also: Interview with ‘The Dragonfly Effect’ Author Andy Smith: Finding What Your Audience Wants

Scripted: What do you think is in store for the future of content marketing?

Andy: History usually has something to teach us, at least in terms of what we should really worry about now. The present has a way of distracting us from seeing that we are always in the midst of an evolving technological, social, and economic process.

Every new media is different from the other one, but when we first witness them, they each seem more different and disorienting than they do later on as they mature and we acclimate to them.

Many used to seem to think that online marketing was fundamentally different from previous media, but the more people practiced it, the more it became clear it was a hybrid of the present and what had come before. And it didn’t kill all other media. But it presented unique new measurement capabilities. Some marketers got smart about integrating the new media creatively with existing traditional campaigns. They knew that capturing people’s attention and engagement through every available means remained important. The media, norms, devices and occasions were different, necessitating new approaches that took time to develop.

Is content marketing different or faddish compared to what has come before? I don’t think so. But it is different, and it has tentacles that will extend to reshape other aspects of marketing. Eventually, as with social marketing before it, it will no longer be thought of as distinct, but simply as an element of a complete marketing program.

Today, content marketing is distinct and it’s fundamentally important.

I don’t believe it’s particularly helpful for us to perpetuate it as a separate discipline for the long term. It’s more important to simply manage content efforts to do the best possible job solving problems for customers and for the company, and expect those efforts to be increasingly integrated over time.

I take the perspective that just as 15 years ago Internet media began a long evolution to become part of the media mix, so are social and content marketing doing now.

Scripted: Does anything stand out to you that’s unique about content marketing?

In general, we’ve seen that good content, whether it’s a review, a story, or entertainment goes through a different neural pathway than advertising. Potential customers are very attuned to (and resist) “being sold to.”

We are much more suspicious of advertising that insults our intelligence, seems to deny the existence of alternative consumer choices, or that seems to be overly sales-y in the marketing-speak.

One of the key characteristics of content marketing is the good stuff doesn’t masquerade as objective fact, when in fact it has an angle to it. It appears to provide more information and give people the opportunity to make a decision, but its coupled with good persuasive techniques and a solid understanding of consumer behavior, particularly in terms of helping people take their next action.

Scripted: Do you think that the quality of content shared has an impact on content marketing, brand awareness, and social change?

Andy: The quality issue can be unpackaged along several dimensions. Something you would describe as quality content is often what causes people to stay subscribed rather than unsubscribing at the first, second, or third issue of a newsletter. Those that keep coming back for more do so because they have found consistent quality content that enriches their lives. Charting my own behavior, I find that when I opt-in for communications with any organization, brand or cause, I expect the experience to be consistent. I have opted-out from many brands and causes that I otherwise use and like because their content stream was mismatched with my brand expectations. It’s created a weird, dissonant experience that I liken to the early rush for brands to get Facebook pages. Those pages were generally under-staffed, junior-staffed or agency-staffed and many fell flat as a result. I think that content marketing is going through this adolescent stage now.

Scripted: Do you think because there are many different definitions of “quality content” that’s why there’s been an emergence of “fluff” content?

Andy: Every audience has different goals or different definitions. It’s dangerous to try to apply the rules of one audience against another.

Quality can be one of those things where people can expend a lot of time delivering excessively high quality content to an audience that doesn’t require something at that level.

In a case like that they may be better off just meeting their audience’s expectations for quality and channeling their energy to deliver a lot more of it.

You can overemphasize quality, but each publisher would do well if they try to understand — just as they understand what their audiences’ needs are, in terms of problems that they solve — what their expectations are for the content they receive.

Take the ubiquitous top 10 list that circulates on the Internet. People click on them despite themselves. Such lists are so quickly and easily digested they appeal to our over-stimulated, time-starved minds. They do a good job of grabbing attention. The fact that there’s a ton of almost pre-chewed content out there, doesn’t make it poor by definition.

It’s a question of how you present it, how you blend it and how it draws people into the next action you want them to take.

Thankfully, I think we are past the point where there’s an appetite for things that are poorly spelled, or that’s clearly just written to grab SEO. We are still emerging from this early, dark direction that content marketing took in its earliest years. These are the things I think of when you mention low quality. Overall, quality is a target that is highly audience and occasion-dependent rather than an absolute bar.